Johnson dominates at Phoenix
|By Diego Mejia||Monday, November 16th 2009, 00:21 GMT|
Jimmie Johnson claimed a dominant victory at Phoenix and closed in on his fourth consecutive Sprint Cup Series title.
The reigning champion claimed his seventh win of the year and his fourth during the Chase, staying in control for 238 of the race's 312 laps.
He first claimed the lead on lap 55, overtaking early race leader Kurt Busch, who retook the lead from Johnson on the first round of stops. On lap 90 Johnson passed him again and dominated from then on, taking an uncontested fourth victory at Phoenix.
The race was probably one of Johnson's strongest during the play-off and one that has allowed him to regain the momentum he lost after his crash at Texas last week. A 25th place finish at the Homestead finale would be enough for the Californian to claim the title regardless of Mark Martin's result.
"I just can't thank the team enough for staying focused," said Johnson. "Pretty bummed out after last week. Chad did a great job of kind of steering the team, keeping everybody's spirits up, focused on the right things.
"We showed up, good in qualifying trim, qualified well. Then once we had that second set of tyres on the car today, the car took off. We just made some small adjustments from there, just kept making the car better and better."
Meanwhile Mark Martin couldn't manage better than a fourth place finish, which saw him lose ground in the title race to Johnson. Now 108 points behind him, his title hopes don't rely solely on his results anymore and only a major upset for the Californian in the season finale can open up his chances again.
"I'm pretty proud of what we've done this season," said Martin after the race. "That's really all I've got to say about it. I'm proud of what we've accomplished."
Jeff Gordon is now completely out of the championship fight, despite finishing the race in ninth place. The four-time champion didn't have the speed to contend at the front, despite racing inside the top-five in the early going.
Jeff Burton enjoyed his best result of the season finishing second in one of the best outings of the year for Richard Childress Racing, at a track where they've enjoyed success in the past. Clint Bowyer was also a factor in the fight behind Johnson at some points, but lost ground in the closing stages, finishing seventh.
Denny Hamlin finished third ahead of Martin, while polesitter Martin Truex Jr was fifth, rounding out a good day also for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, as Juan Pablo Montoya finished eighth, putting both the team's cars in the top-ten only for the second time this season.
Kurt Busch, initially Johnson's main rival, fell back during a pitstop and would only finish sixth in the end. His result allowed him to close in on Gordon's third place in the standings as the best non-Hendrick car in the Chase.
Tony Stewart remained in fifth place in the Chase despite a troubled afternoon. He was one of ten cars involved in a multi-car wreck on lap 171, ignited by Dale Earnhardt Jr getting loose on the inside of Marcos Ambrose.
Another accident that involved at least six cars happened on a restart on lap 120. Brad Keselowski, making his second outing for Penske, was caught in both incidents.
Pos Driver Make Laps 1. Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet 312 2. Jeff Burton Chevrolet 312 3. Denny Hamlin Toyota 312 4. Mark Martin Chevrolet 312 5. Martin Truex Jr Chevrolet 312 6. Kurt Busch Dodge 312 7. Clint Bowyer Chevrolet 312 8. Juan Montoya Chevrolet 312 9. Jeff Gordon Chevrolet 312 10. David Reutimann Toyota 312 11. Marcos Ambrose Toyota 312 12. Kyle Busch Toyota 312 13. A.J. Allmendinger Ford 312 14. Greg Biffle Ford 312 15. Kasey Kahne Dodge 312 16. Carl Edwards Ford 312 17. Sam Hornish Jr Dodge 312 18. Matt Kenseth Ford 312 19. Jamie McMurray Ford 312 20. Ryan Newman Chevrolet 312 21. Joey Logano Toyota 310 22. Robby Gordon Toyota 310 23. David Ragan Ford 310 24. Kevin Harvick Chevrolet 310 25. Tony Stewart Chevrolet 310 26. Reed Sorenson Dodge 310 27. Casey Mears Chevrolet 308 28. Elliott Sadler Dodge 308 29. Paul Menard Ford 308 30. David Gilliland Chevrolet 308 31. Erik Darnell Ford 306 32. Max Papis Toyota 304 33. Scott Speed Toyota 303 34. John Andretti Chevrolet 268 35. Dale Earnhardt Jr Chevrolet 256 36. Michael Waltrip Toyota 251 37. Brad Keselowski Dodge 239 38. Brian Vickers Toyota 170 39. Bobby Labonte Chevrolet 169 40. Joe Nemechek Toyota 47 41. Michael McDowell Toyota 36 42. Dave Blaney Toyota 9 43. Tony Raines Chevrolet 6